Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Stay in the EU. It’s clearly in our interests (Times)

Europe isn’t perfect but we would be wrong to leave the world’s biggest trading bloc, argues Alistair Darling.

2. We doctors worry about NHS failings, too (Daily Telegraph)

Hospital A&Es are at breaking point, and it’s no use blaming the patients, says Sarah Wollaston.

3. The time for a British decision is now (Financial Times)

It is doubtful London could remain the continent’s financial capital if the UK quit the EU, writes Martin Wolf.

4. Labour must stand firm: no to a referendum on Europe (Guardian)

Out-of-office Tories have Cameron in a corner, writes Polly Toynbee. But Miliband should ignore calls to hold a futile and distracting in-out vote.

5. Our universities should take a lesson from the land of the free (Daily Telegraph)

Britain and the US have chosen two very different models for funding universities – and it’s clear which is winning, says Fraser Nelson.

6. Despite the cynics, don’t give up on politics (Times)

Alan Johnson’s memoir of childhood poverty is a reminder that our leaders are not all from an out-of-touch elite, says Philip Collins.

7. The new Archbishop should stop this gesture politics (Independent)

Justin Welby should seize the opportunity to totally reshape the role of bishops in the House of Lords, says Frank Field. 

8. Probation cannot be solved by a minister in a hurry (Guardian)

Reforming probation is too important to be jeopardised by a rush to results for partisan political purposes, says a Guardian editorial.

9. George Osborne's hair of the dog that bit us (Daily Telegraph)

The Chancellor wants a mini-boom to restore growth, but that’s what got us into this mess, writes Jeremy Warner. 

10. Alex Ferguson's hairdryer treatment won't cut it in politics (Guardian)

The Manchester United boss has been wildly lauded for his success on the pitch, writes Simon Jenkins. Those who govern us don't have it so easy.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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